It must be acknowledged that while video cameras and cameras, in general, continue to improve year, there hasn’t really been any significant innovation in a very long time. It’s true that resolutions and frame rates are progressing at an exponential rate, but in the previous 20 years or so, there haven’t been many innovations that have come close to upending the very idea of a camera.
Those with a good memory may recall that DJI created a short video a few years ago called The Circle. Without knowing what it was filmed on, you probably wouldn’t have known anything about it that made it distinct from previous movies.
The Circle, though, was truly unique. Using a DJI Inspire 2 drone as a completely stabilized movie camera, the entire incident was captured on video. The Ronin 4D that we have today was made possible because of The Circle, which paved the way for what was to follow.
A brand-new subgenre of cameras is anticipated to be launched by the Ronin 4D system. Why? The first professional camera system with integrated gimbal stabilization technology is the Ronin 4D. Additionally, it has four axes, which produce even smoother film than the more typical three-axis devices that are widely used in the sector.
The fact that it hasn’t been done before is surprising, but when you think about it, only DJI has the in-depth understanding of gimbals and cameras to make it happen. Additionally, DJI is a business that is unattached to conventional processes, allowing it the freedom to experiment and attempt new things. And based on my experience with the Ronin 4D, DJI’s bold move could have paid off. Therefore, let’s begin from the beginning.
The Ronin 4D is as well built as any other movie camera I have come across in its pricing range. It’s sturdy, and the buttons were obviously designed by someone who has operated cameras while wearing gloves in freezing weather! In a world full with cameras with tiny small switches and a touchscreen-only design, it’s a significant benefit for me.
The camera’s side-mounted LCD panel is large, and bright, and appears to have excellent color accuracy. Huge buttons can be found along its sides, and one side also has a large control wheel that may be used to manually alter all settings. Even a button to enable or disable peaking is included.
The button arrangement of the Ronin 4D is quite well thought out, even if I still yearn for the times when most cameras had their fundamental functions in about the same location. Moving from one to the camera was like driving a car where everything was known.
The Ronin 4D is intriguing in terms of ergonomics. The removable side handles, which enable directional control over the camera and focus adjustment, are the most popular method of holding it.
This is acceptable for brief operational times, but you’ll need some type of support for longer sessions. After I used it and returned home, my arms were definitely aware of it.
Fortunately, its compact shape makes it quite easy to rig up something to provide suspended support, such as an Easyrig or a shoulder system. The latter, however, may require you to operate the gimbal in three-axis mode because the fourth axis’s downward-facing sensors are located there.
Not the quickest camera to start up is the 4D. It takes about the same length of time as other gimbals, so it might not be the greatest choice for documentaries or other types of films where you would require a quick start-up to capture an incident. Having said that, the capability the Ronin 4D provides may be quite practical for certain single operators.
The camera has much to offer for small-scale, one-person operations and crew-based settings, which is something I find intriguing. The AI-based focusing and tracking feature of the Ronin 4D could be helpful for the single operator.
For crew-based productions, it is possible to attach the side handles to a wireless monitor and operate the camera remotely from a distance. Previously, this item would have cost almost the same as the camera on its own, but it is now available, integrated into a system that is already remarkably reasonable.
Actually, the Ronin 4D is a problem-solving tool. Extra kit You just need to bring one gadget now rather than two, such as a camera and a gimbal, along with two sets of batteries. Time is money, especially for short projects with constrained crew sizes and/or resources. The ability to easily convert between working like a regular camera and then having the option to switch on the gimbal when necessary is a time saver.
For industrial and corporate projects, where you would, for instance, be interviewing a business director or staff member in a lighted interview style setting at one point, I can see the 4D being quite helpful. After that, you must descend to the manufacturing floor to get shots there. With a little extra time spent switching to the gimbal mode, you may be ready to snap more dynamic photos with the flick of a switch.
Additionally, the gimbal mechanism has been created to be quick and simple. Even though the fundamental balance is still required, it’s far simpler than with a traditional gimbal. It was created by DJI to work well with zoom lenses that expand and contract when the focal length is reasonably adjusted. Even if you might once in a while need to perform an auto-calibration, I discovered that overall there was a significant reduction in “gimbal faff.”
Observations on the Ronin 4D
The LiDAR focusing system performs admirably. Your current emphasis is shown graphically in a clear, slick, and extremely responsive manner. Although it only has a 10m range, that is more than sufficient for the majority of common use cases. Drag a box around an item or person to automatically have the camera follow them as well. In general, this works rather well, especially if the response speed is properly configured.
If they pass behind a tree or other obstacle, they may become confused or lose lock, in which case the focusing mechanism tends to focus on the foreground. The system can be tweaked, however, I wasn’t able to properly investigate this in the time I had.
If you want to get the Ronin 4D, you might need to conduct some testing to see what works best. As they upgrade the firmware, DJI will very certainly make major changes, and some of these issues could even be resolved by the time the product ships.
I’d say it’s challenging to highlight individuals or items and have it track them in spur-of-the-moment situations. I didn’t consistently maintain attention, as you can see from the MTB sequence at the start of my video assessment. But there wasn’t much time with the camera for this. Please don’t infer anything from my poor focus!
The battery life is quite strong. I didn’t use any precise timings, but I’d think the official duration of 2.5 hours was about appropriate. I was utilizing the camera in a -2 degree environment with the system nearly always on and the 4D axis active, and I was astonished at how power-efficient it was. The batteries charge relatively quickly—around 1.5 hours—which is even better.
Although it is an option, the XLR audio interface gives you full-size balanced input across two channels, however, the camera I was given didn’t have one. Although the inbuilt mics on the Ronin 4D are fantastic, the gimbal motor sound is caught up pretty clearly with them, thus you will require extra audio.
You could be worried that the sound produced by the gimbal motor would cause issues during interview situations. With an external super-cardioid mic and the Ronin 4D’s auto-tracking technology, I was able to record my Zhiyun Crane M3 to-camera pieces without any motor noise difficulties. In most interview scenarios, folks would already disable the gimbal.
The level adjustment for the audio, as far as I’m aware, must be done through a menu rather than a tactile button, which is my one complaint. If the 4D is successful and DJI develops a follow-up, maybe it will have some actual audio volume control knobs.
Another area where the Ronin 4D clearly outperforms a regular camera mounted on a gimbal or Steadicam is audio. On conventional stabilization systems, audio connections can affect how the camera is balanced, but not with the Ronin 4D. It considerably streamlines the process.
The Ronin 4D has a few additional focal length restrictions than a typical camera. if you want to use the gimbal capability, at least. A 135mm lens is the longest that can be used according to DJI’s official chart, but you could theoretically use even longer focal lengths if you turned off the gimbal and added rail support.
The camera’s built-in focus control motor is a fantastic feature since it enables the use of the manual focus control wheel and LiDAR autofocus technology with older, non-electronic lenses.
The lens mount may be readily changed to a completely another system. The camera I received had options for DL, E-mount, and M-mount. Hopefully, more shallow flange back full-frame mounts, like the RF and Z-mount, will also be introduced. However, expecting PL glass will be unrealistic because of its size and weight.
With a 9-stop light reduction range from ND2 to ND512, the internal ND wheel of the Ronin 4D adds to its utility as a camera.
Wireless control and observation
The option to remove the control handles from the camera’s side and fasten them to a wireless external display is yet another amazing feature. This gives a second crew member complete remote control over the camera. With the almost negligible delay, they can regulate frame, focus, and start and stop recording.
Take a time to consider what this implies. Up to this moment, the price of such a monitor and focus system was nearly equal to that of the Ronin 4D. It is now affordable for all budgets. It’s the democratization of filmmaking in action.
I had to keep reminding myself that this camera had a gimbal if I need it throughout my time using it. If you keep in mind that you don’t have to use the gimbal constantly, you may really get the most out of the system. However, I have to admit that because the gimbal feature was accessible, I had to practice self-control for a while.
It is simple to develop the habit of turning it on and off like any other camera since it is a camera system. If you ever lock the gimbal for security, this can be a concern because it means you frequently turn the system on with the locks in place. Not good.
In order to prevent the motors from trying to engage if I forgot to remove the locks, I ultimately started making it a point to turn the gimbal switch off each time I powered down the camera.
More than just an interesting object, the Ronin 4D is useful. Additionally, it meets the requirements for picture quality. The colors and tones are absolutely marvelously natural, and the image is crisp but realistic. Even if you record in ProRes rather than the accessible ProRes RAW, it grades well. We have reached a stage where it would surprise me if a new camera produced a bad image, but the Ronin 4D really captures a rather pleasing one.
Because of the dual base ISO and the incredibly low noise levels, it is able to film in certain very low light conditions without suffering a loss in quality. For additional setup, the camera’s sharpness and noise reduction levels may be adjusted via a menu.
Storage devices include USB-C SSDs, CFexpress drives, and ProSSD drives. The ProSSD option that came with my camera struck me as a fantastic idea. With a built-in USB-C connector, it can be hooked directly into a computer for speedy film transmission. It is compact without being loseable.
DJI Ronin 4D Specifications
|Lens Mount||DJI DL|
|Sensor Resolution||Effective: 24.1 Megapixel|
|Sensor Type||Full-Frame CMOS|
|Image Stabilization||Integrated Gimbal, 4-Axis|
|Built-In ND Filter||Mechanical Filter Wheel with Clear, 1 Stop (1/2), 2 Stop (1/4), 3 Stop (1/8), 4 Stop (1/16), 5 Stop (1/32), 6 Stop (1/64), 7 Stop (1/128), 8 Stop (1/256), 9 Stop (1/512) ND Filters|
|Internal Filter Holder||Yes|
|Capture Type||Video Only|
|Shutter Type||Electronic Rolling Shutter|
|Shutter Speed||1/8000 to 1/24 Second|
|ISO Sensitivity||200 to 12,800|
|Advertised Dynamic Range||14 Stops|
|White Balance||2000 to 11,000K|
|Rotation Range||Controllable Range|
Yaw (Pan): 285°
Pitch (Tilt): 210° (-55 to 155°)
Roll: 70° (-35 to 35°)
Yaw (Pan): 330°
Pitch (Tilt): 250° (-75 to 175°)
Roll: 320° (-90 to 230°)
|Z-Axis Adjustment Range||5.1″ / 130 mm|
|Follow Speed||Pan/Tilt/Roll: 360°/s using DJI Master Wheels or Pro Force|
Pan/Tilt/Roll: 120°/s using Ronin 4D Handgrip
|Load Capacity||2.1 lb / 960 g|
|Internal Recording Modes||ProRes 422 HQ|
6008 x 3168 at 23.98/24.00/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps
4096 x 2160 at 23.98/24.00/25/29.97/48.00/50/59.94/72/96/100/119.88 fps
2048 x 1080 at 23.98/24.00/25/29.97/48.00/50/59.94/72/96/100/119.88 fps
H.264 4:2:0 10-Bit
4096 x 2160 at 23.98/24.00/25/29.97/48.00/50/59.94/72/96/100/119.88 fps
2048 x 1080 at 23.98/24.00/25/29.97/48.00/50/59.94/72/100/119.88 fps
|External Recording Modes||USB|
4096 x 2160 at 23.98/24.00/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps
2048 x 1080 at 23.98/24.00/25/29.97/50/59.94 fps
|Gamma Curve||HDR-HLG, Rec709|
|Recording Limit||Up to 150 Minutes|
|Built-In Microphone Type||Stereo|
|Audio Recording||2-Channel 48-Bit LPCM Audio|
Still Image Capture
|Image File Format||Raw|
|Media/Memory Card Slot||Single Slot: DJI ProSSD via Separate Module [1 TB Maximum]|
Single Slot: CFexpress Type B
|Internal Memory||1 TB|
|Video I/O||1 x HDMI 1.4 Output|
|Audio I/O||1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS Stereo Mic/Line Input|
1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm TRS Stereo Headphone Output
|Power I/O||1 x Barrel (12 to 30 VDC) Input|
|Other I/O||1 x USB-C (USB 3.2 / 3.1 Gen 1) Data/Video Input/Output|
1 x Proprietary Monitor Output
|Global Positioning (GPS, GLONASS, etc.)||None|
|Resolution||1920 x 1080|
|Display Type||Tilting Touchscreen LCD|
|Type||Optional, Not Included|
|Focus Type||Auto and Manual Focus|
|Focus Mode||Automatic, Manual Focus|
|Operating Temperature||14 to 104°F / -10 to 40°C|
|Storage Temperature||-4 to 140°F / -20 to 60°C|
|Battery Type||DJI TB50|
|Material of Construction||Aluminum, Carbon Fiber, Magnesium Alloy|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||12.2 x 11.4 x 10.9″ / 309 x 290 x 277 mm (With Protrusions)|
9.3 x 6.3 x 4.5″ / 235 x 160 x 115 mm (Without Protrusions)
|Weight||10.3 lb / 4.67 kg (With Battery, Grip, Handle, Monitor, Recording Media, Viewfinder)|
3.2 lb / 1.45 kg (Body Only)
2.29 lb / 1.04 kg (Gimbal)
|Package Weight||26 lb|
|Box Dimensions (LxWxH)||23.3 x 20.5 x 10″|
The Ronin 4D is undoubtedly a unique camera. It does, however, have a useful function. It does have some ergonomic problems for prolonged usage, but nothing that minor rigging couldn’t fix.
I can see the Ronin 4D becoming a new kind of camera that is here to stay since it addresses certain practical problems and is so amazingly versatile at such an acceptable price range. I believe that other producers will be paying very careful attention to how the market responds to it.
Although it won’t work for everyone, it will work for many. To make sure it fulfills your needs, I would advise renting one when they become available. I wouldn’t advise making an impulsive purchase of the Ronin 4D.
Spend some time with it and really process the information it provides. In fact, I believe you would use it far more frequently than you anticipate if you purchased it as a supplementary camera. It may even become your primary camera, leaving the conventional type one for specialized jobs like long lens work.